Meeting with Justin Israels at Pace Prints was a great experience that felt very welcoming. The studio was large, yet open and comfortable. I liked seeing the work on the walls and the experimental endeavors of the artists, such as the watercolor chips on one table and the proofs hanging on the wall. I took Printmaking I last semester, but seeing the studio in person shifted my perspective on what it actually means to be a printmaker. Justin talked in detail about the collaboration that occurs between an artist invited to make prints and the printmaker. I did not fully realize that often times the artist will create a design and rely on the printmaker to produce the editions. They will work together to decide on color and methods that will work best but usually the printmaker is producing the works. I know popular artists such as Picasso, Kirchner, Cassatt, etc. made a lot of prints so it led me to wonder if these artists came up with the designs and were working collaboratively with a printmaker or if they were actually running their work through the press themselves.
Printmaking is a unique medium and in my opinion, it is not as widely appreciated as painting or sculpture, or at least it often seems like this. I personally found printmaking to be very challenging, and laborious. There is so much precision and patience needed. It was cool to see how open Justin talked about experimentation and trying to innovate concepts that have been around for thousands of years. I do not think people often realize how much work and time it can take to even produce a proof. I surely didn’t before. It made me wonder why printmakers rarely get any credit, and in a sense are working behind the scenes. I wonder if this will ever change. Justin described the process as fun and rewarding regardless.
Furthermore, hearing Justin discuss how people are gravitating towards the tangible quality of printmaking was interesting. In a time where technology is advancing on such a great scale, it is remarkable to see how this medium is still relevant, and frankly, refreshing.
One other thing that was fascinating was how Justin described how some prints of late artists had been printed after their deaths. For example, Rembrandt’s prints, although not signed are still circulating around somewhere, which was crazy to me. This led me to consider artistic license and ownership and the blurred distinctions that can sometimes exist. Justin also said that it is important to destroy plates or mark an “X” through them after the edition is completed, which seems quite logical after learning this.
After the visit at Pace Prints, I found myself wondering more about Nina Chanel Abney’s work which was hung on the walls. The graphic quality to her paintings lends nicely to printmaking. I liked how simple, yet complex her work is in terms of linear quality, color, and subject matter. She approaches subjects that are political in a way that seems approachable and engaging. I learned that the artist purposefully makes her figures ambiguous and the background and context is meant to promote dialogue and start conversations about issues such as racism, violence, and feminism, to note a few. She works in a variety of mediums like collage, painting, murals, and prints. I found myself considering how each medium allows for a different quality and while a message of a work might be similar, the medium expresses itself in a unique way each time. It was great to be able to see the beginnings of her process as well. Prints allow for a unique way of looking at art and it makes sense why many artists look towards this medium to shift their artistic portfolio in a new light.
(image courtesy of https://www.galeriemagazine.com/swizz-beatz-on-collecting-nina-chanel-abney/)